Teachable Moments

True Worship

A Sunday school teacher was leading her children to the ‘big church’ worship service.  To make sure they knew what they were about to do, she was going over the proper ways to act in the service.
“And why is it necessary to be quiet in church and keep your hands to yourself?”
One bright little girl replied,
“Because people are sleeping and we don’t want to wake them up.”

While this story always makes me smile, at the same time, I find it sadly typical in the way adults often converse with children about the church worship service.  Children are told how to behave externally, but they are often left wondering what should be taking place in their heart. And that’s backward. Worship is about our heart, not our hands.

Jesus had a similar situation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. She was asking about the pragmatics of worship and found out that it is not the where and when that’s important, but the who and the what.  After the woman asked Jesus about which mountain should worship take place on, Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24).  He did not answer her question because it was not the right question.  If we want to worship rightly, we need to start by asking the right questions.

  1. What is the point of worship?
  2. What is our response to worship?
  3. What does worship require of us?

What is the point of worship?

The point of worship is to give back to God what He has already given to us.

  • God has revealed Himself to us – we respond by agreeing with Him. “Yes, oh God, that IS who you say you are”. We worship in Spirit and in truth.  (John 4:23,24)
  • God has revealed Himself to us – we respond by showing our affection as our emotional response to knowing Him “I love who you are”. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • God has revealed Himself to us – we respond by saying “Amen!”, I agree with your righteous, just, and sovereign will, knowing for certain that you will do what you say you will do.
    • “Amen” is found in both the Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) texts and is literally translated “so be it” or “truly”.  We find it most often in Deuteronomy when the people’s souls are convicted that God’s curses on His people as judgment are earned and appropriate.

What is our response to worship?

Worship is an experience of the heart seen obviously in a life of obedience.

  • The highest form of praise to God is our obedience to Him.  To say we worship God and yet turn from our corporate expressions of praise to live lives that are contrary to His word is legalism, formality, hypocrisy – it is living as the Pharisees did at the time of Christ and it is abhorrent to our God.
    • John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will obey me.”
    • John 14:23a – “All who love me will do what I say.”

What does worship require of us?

Worship is a sacrifice of praise; if true worship costs us nothing, it is not worship.

  • Worship is given to God whether we understand why He does what He does or not.  When we don’t understand His hand (acts), we trust His heart (character). 
    • Habakkuk 3:17, 18 – “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen  and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
  • God is always good and can always be trusted and when we choose to praise God in spite of our personal pain, God is worshiped and our faith grows.
    • Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; surely will I defend my ways to His face.”

Dear Reader, we all want to teach the next generation how to worship God in spirit and in truth.  

  • To do this, we must make sure, we are diligent students, knowing Him more and more on a daily basis. 
  • To do this, we must obey His will as revealed in scripture.  
  • To do this, we must worship God at all times, no matter our life circumstances.

Reader challenge:  let us look at our lives!  Let us look in a mirror and see ourselves for who we are as worshipers – am I knowing and loving God, obeying God and worshiping Him no matter what?  This is true worship and this is what we want our children to imitate.

Blessings to each of you as you seek to worship God….truly!  Amen!  
Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Some Prayers are Worth Repeating

You’ve heard it said, don’t reinvent the wheel.  It’s good advice – some things are already done so well in their basic form, it is unnecessary and foolish to try and duplicate them.  I suggest that there are some prayers worth repeating because they are perfect – just perfect – as they are.

What are these prayers and who do they come from?  Let’s do a historical walk through a ‘Hall of Prayer’ to discover what is worth praying again.

PROPHET OF PRAYER – Samuel

Samuel is an example of prayer not because of the words he spoke, but because of his heart attitude toward prayer.  Samuel is known as the prophet of prayer; he receives this name justly for the many times we find him praying for others as he saves Israel more than once by interceding for them with the Father. 

POINT:  Do those you love need help? Pray!

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.                1 Samuel 12:23

KING of ISRAEL – Solomon

The third King of Israel ruled well when he relied on the Lord’s wisdom.  When he sought direction elsewhere, he failed.

POINT:  Do you need wisdom?  Pray!

“You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”                             2 Chronicles 1:8-10

FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYR – Stephen

Accused of blasphemy against the temple and the law, Stephen was stoned to death in 36AD.  What did he do with his dying breaths? He prayed, asking God for mercy against his enemies.

POINT: Do you need to forgive?  Pray!

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he then died. Acts 7:59-60

CHURCH FATHER – St Clement of Alexandria, 150–215 AD

A Christian theologian and teacher in the Egyptian city, Alexandria, Titus Flavius Clemens was a convert, coming out of Paganism.  Having parents who were non-believers, Clement prayed for children and families, making much of the theology of the Trinity, especially God the Father and Jesus the Son.  

 POINT:  Do you desire for your children to know Christ?  Pray!

Be kind to Your little children, Lord; that is what we ask of You as their Tutor, You the Father, Israel’s guide; Son, yes, but Father as well. Grant that by doing what You told us to do, we may achieve a faithful likeness to the Image and, as far as is possible for us, may find in You a good God and a lenient Judge.

May we all live in the peace that comes from You. May we journey towards Your city, sailing through the waters of sin untouched by the waves, borne tranquilly along by the Holy Spirit, Your Wisdom beyond all telling. Night and day until the last day of all, may our praises give You thanks, our thanksgiving praise You: You who alone are both Father and Son, Son and Father, the Son who is our Tutor and our Teacher, together with the Holy Spirit.

MISSIONARY – Elisabeth Elliot (1926–2015)

A missionary in Ecuador to the Auca tribe, Elisabeth’s husband, Jim Elliot, was murdered in 1956 trying to make contact with this people group.  After his death, Elisabeth spent 2 years as a missionary reaching out and serving the very people that killed her husband.

        Point:  Do you want to live a life fully submitted to Christ?  Pray!

Loving Lord and heavenly Father, I offer up today all that I am, all that I have, all that I do, and all that I suffer, to be Yours today and Yours forever. Give me grace, Lord, to do all that I know of Your holy will. Purify my heart, sanctify my thinking, correct my desires. Teach me, in all of today’s work and trouble and joy, to respond with honest praise, simple trust, and instant obedience, that my life may be in truth a living sacrifice, by the power of Your Holy Spirit and in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, my Master and my all. Amen.

Dear Reader, are you inspired by how others reach out and up to their God – how they depend upon Him and ask Him to work?  Read these prayers and make them your own or use them as an encouragement to write your own. However you engage with these faithful followers of Christ and their prayers, may you never grow weary or complacent about the amazing grace we receive when we take time to pray.

Blessings to you from the God we seek!  Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

The Story of Teach Us to Pray

Let me tell you a story.  A story you may have heard before, but with details you may have missed.

Once upon a time, a rabbi named Jesus visited some friends, Mary and Martha, in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem.  After dining with them and giving Martha some much needed advice, he went to “a certain place to pray” (Luke 11:1a).  

  • Bethany is nearby and thus, it is very possible that this “certain place” was the Mount of Olives where he went to pray prior to his betrayal and subsequent crucifixion. Where exactly?  Not sure. But, he had a designated space.

“When he was finished..” (Luke 11:1b)

  • His prayer took time. How much time?  No idea.  But, he invested time.

One of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1c)

  • Not surprising, his disciples saw Jesus’ behavior and wanted to learn to do the same thing.  What do we do?, they asked.  People are fascinated with formulas and that is what they wanted from Jesus. 

“And he said to them, “When you pray, say:  ”Father, hallowed be (holy is) your name. Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:2-4)

  • Jesus answered the disciple’s question and told them what to pray.  Is this what we should pray?  Yes.  Is it the only thing we should pray?  No. 

A Quick Recap:

  1. Create space and time in your life to pray.
  2. Use the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray as a guide for your own prayers.

The Story Continues
Jesus, because he was such a good Rabbi, went on to tell the disciples more than they thought they needed to know (Luke 11:5-12).  Jesus did not end the conversation on a what but a who.  

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

  • The disciples wanted a pattern; Jesus ultimately gave them a person.  

Dear Friend, the moral of Jesus’ teaching on prayer helps us prioritize our space and time, gives us a pattern for what to pray and ultimately, brings us back to the person of God, the Holy Spirit.  May what the disciples received from the teaching of Jesus on prayer be true in our lives as well.

Blessings to you and fondly yours, dear readers, Elizabeth

Prayer and Quotes of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD) on Prayer

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in my O Holy Spirit that my work too may  be holy.
Draw my heart O Holy Spirit that I love only what is holy.
Strengthen me O Holy Spirit to defend all that is holy.
Guard me then O Holy Spirit that I always may be holy.

“You have created us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

“To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him the greatest human adventure.”

Teachable Moments

Midweek Meditation: The Mirror of Prayer

Prayer reflects the heart of the one who prays; prayer reveals what God needs to accomplish in our own lives perhaps even more than what we are asking God to do in others.

As prayer is a mirror that reveals our hearts towards the Lord, let us take some time to examine where our hearts are before Him. Let us consider Job, Jonah, and Habakkuk to see what our prayers tell us about our relationship with our Savior. 

Job – Job started out strong but slowly began listening to the unwise counsel of family and friends. Job’s consistent turning to people for wisdom and his lack of prayer not only encouraged his questioning faith, but showed his lack of faith in the Almighty.

  • Who are you spending your time turning to? 
  • Are you seeking the input of friends and family consistently over that of the Lord?
  • Is your trust firmly rooted in your Savior whom you turn to daily?

Jonah – Jonah had a bad attitude when turning to God. He acted more out of fear of consequences than fear of the Lord. It was his lack of true repentance that led to bitter anger towards God in the end. 

  • Is my heart turning to God in worship and repentance or resignation?
  • Do I fear the Lord or just His punishment?
  • Does my attitude towards the Lord reflect his greatness or am I too focused on myself to approach him correctly? 

Habakkuk – Habakkuk wanted to know why. He wanted to understand God’s reasoning for what is happening but he quickly realizes that knowledge is a poor replacement for faith. His demonstration of faith even without knowledge and understanding is a wonderful picture of true worship.

  • How should I approach God when I don’t understand what He is doing?
  • Do I put my confidence in the Lord over my understanding of what is happening?
  • Do I take joy in approaching the God of my salvation?

May you find peace and great joy this week in spending time in prayer with our great Savior! Blessings to you as you reflect on the mirror your prayer life gives to you, dear reader. Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

The Mirror of Prayer

Children can both cause us to laugh and learn when you ask them about prayer.  From the internet, here are my favorite stories that can make us smile and ponder the amazing gift of prayer.

  • My brother, when he was about 9 years old, had to take a test in catechism and one question was, why did Jesus ascend to heaven on the third day? His answer: To be with his Dad!
  • A friend of mine’s son prayed so quietly at the dining room table that we couldn’t hear what he was saying. When his sister complained to him about it he said, “I wasn’t praying to you.”
  • When I gave birth to my youngest, a boy, my daughter, age 6, whined, “But, I prayed for a girl.” Her brother, age 4, replied, “I prayed harder.”
  • A wife invited some people to dinner.  At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?”  “I wouldn’t know what to say,” the girl replied.  “Just say what you hear Mommy say,” the wife answered.  The daughter bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”

Nothing reveals more about who we really are and what we truly believe than prayer.  So often we see prayer as something we do to try and change the circumstances of life or someone else’s heart. However, when we approach it as such, we miss so much of what God has for us.

Prayer reflects the heart of the one who prays; prayer reveals what God needs to accomplish in our own lives perhaps even more than what we are asking God to do in others.

We can see prayer as our “spiritual mirror” when we look at the prayers of the prophets in the Old Testament.

JOB

Job shows great faith in God in the beginning as tragedy after tragedy enfolds him.  But due to his willingness to discourse and even passively listen to his friends’ unwise, foolish explanations regarding his life, Job shows his wavering trust in God.  “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments . . . Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days?” (23:3–4; 24:1; cf. 13:23–24).  Job’s consistent turning to people for wisdom and his lack of prayer not only encouraged his questioning faith, but showed his lack of faith in the Almighty.

JONAH

Jonah, in the belly of the fish and desperate to get out alive, turns to God NOT in worship or repentance, but in resignation. We see Jonah’s bad attitude all the way through the book of Jonah which ends (Jonah 4:9-11) with Jonah being angry about his circumstances. God asks Jonah about his heart attitude which had been so apparent through all of Jonah’s discourse with God.  

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”  But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

HABAKKUK

We silly humans believe more is better – more knowledge will bring peace and more information will solve any uncertainties.  Habakkuk respectfully and humbly asks God for understanding in the ways of the world during his time and God grants his petition, explaining what is happening and even what will happen along with some reasons.  Two times Habakkuk hears God’s reasoning, and in the end, Habakkuk finds knowledge is a poor replacement for faith. In perhaps the most worshipful prayer in scripture, this minor prophet reveals his complete faith in God through his final moments of prayer (Habakkuk 3:17-19):

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold  
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.        

Dear Readers, may we allow our prayers to reveal to us what work we need God to do in our lives.  Let us see our prayers as a mirror: exposing our hearts to us, convicting us, and leading us to personal repentance and unwavering faith in our Almighty, Sovereign, Wise God. 

Praying for you!  Elizabeth